Detention Preparedness

If you know that you are at risk for being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) you need to prepare yourself now. Making arrangements ahead of time will save you and your family a lot of stress if you ever become detained. Do not wait to make arrangements until ICE is at your front door.

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Make Arrangements Now

Find a Good Immigration Attorney

You do not want your friends and family frantically trying to find a lawyer after you have already been arrested by ICE and detained. Go lawyer shopping now so you can take your time and be sure to find an experienced and honest immigration attorney. If you are ever detained, a good immigration lawyer will help you figure out:

  • If you can get a bond;
  • How much a bond would cost; and
  • The best person to pay or post the bond.

A good immigration lawyer can also help you gather evidence needed to fight a deportation order. It is much easier to prepare this ahead of time as a precaution rather than after you have been detained. At Catholic Charities Milwaukee we help clients prepare packets of evidence as soon as possible. This makes it easier to show ICE that our clients are not a flight risk or a danger to the community.


Write down the name of your lawyer or carry their card with you so that if ICE arrests you, you can easily contact your lawyer.

Keep Copies of Important Documents

In addition to preparing evidence ahead of time, you will also want to prepare a file of important documents. This file should include: birth certificates, marriage certificates, federal income tax filings, passports, mortgage papers, deeds, medical prescriptions, and restraining orders. These documents should be kept organized and together in one place.

Know Who You Will Call If You Are Detained

If you are put in jail, you only get one phone call to contact a family member, a friend, or an attorney. As a part of your emergency plan before you are detained, you can make a plan to call your lawyer and then have your lawyer notify your family. Decide this ahead of time, and make sure you and your family agree upon and understand every detail of the plan.

In Case You Are Sent to Your Home Country

If you’ve been previously deported or have a serious criminal conviction on your record, you are at risk of expedited deportation. This means you could be deported without first seeing an immigration judge. If you are at risk for expedited deportation, make living arrangements now in case you are immediately sent back to your home country. Decide where you will stay, and have a plan in place so that your friends and family can contact you. Also, you should keep some kind of debit card with you so you have access to money when you are back in your home country.

Caretaker Plans

If you have children, elderly parents, or pets, determine ahead of time whether they will come back with you to your home country, or, alternatively who will take care of them if you are deported. If you choose caretakers, make sure they know about any medications, restraining orders, or other important details, such as how to contact you in your home country. You might also have to think about who you would want to have guardianship. This would give the caretaker lawful authority to make decisions for your children or an elderly parent if they stay in the United States and you go back to your home country.

Consider Power of Attorney

A power of attorney gives someone the lawful authority to act on someone else’s behalf. If you are in detention for a long period of time, you may want someone to have power of attorney to help manage things for you. A power of attorney can make sure your mortgage is paid; pick up your last paycheck; or perhaps sell a vehicle if money gets tight. This is something you should think about before you are detained by ICE.

Deportation Preparedness Kit

Don't Wait to Make Arrangements

It is important to think about these things now, before you are in crisis mode. Making arrangements before you are in a panic will help you make the best possible choices. These decisions are too important to leave until the last minute. Catholic Charities Milwaukee has a detention preparedness kit that you can download to help you start making arrangements.

How to Find a Good Lawyer

This Guide Can Help You Get Started

You should find a good immigration attorney before you ever find yourself in detention A good immigration lawyer can help you prepare for the possibility of deportation as well as guide you through the process if it becomes your reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Detention Preparedness FAQ

There are two quick ways to find a detained family member. One option is to use the ICE Detainee Locator System at, but this can be slow. You could also call the detention centers for your area. All U.S immigrant detention centers are listed on ICE’s Detention Facility Locator. Learn more about finding your detained loved one on our Finding Detained Immigrants page.

Getting out of detention requires either paying a bond or winning your immigration case. You can learn more about the bond process on our Detained Immigrant Bond page. Also, you can learn about common methods of deportation defense on our pages for:

These are usually special cases and policies are regularly changing for detained minors. An immigration attorney can help you determine your best options based on your personal circumstances. 

Additional Resources

If your friend or family member is detained by ICE, you will need to call the detention centers in your area to locate them. You will also want to prepare yourself for when you go to immigration court.

Refugees coming to the United States must make several adjustments, and often have questions about green cards, citizenship, and work permits.

These three immigration mistakes could seriously hurt your chances of getting a green card, or lawfully immigrating to the United States.